Saturday, April 26, 2014

Guest Author: Melanie Kerr

Writing like Austen: a trip down Regency lane

15 years ago, I was introduced to Jane Austen and the channel for all my interests became clear, for in her work, drama, make-believe and grammar came together in a charming, intelligent and escapist way that captivated my imagination. I have been sewing my own petticoats and dreaming of Colin Firth ever since.

Two years ago, I was given a book, called How to Write a Sentence and in it the author proposes that, as a painter should love paint itself, so a writer must love sentences. I realized when I read this that I must be a writer.  I studied linguistics and English language in university, and a well-made sentence thrills me with its beauty as much as any masterpiece in any other medium. Now that I have taken on a large writing project, I find I cannot get enough of it.

Aside from being a lawyer, I am also a mother of two small children. I have no time to write a novel, yet miraculously I have done so. People always ask me when I wrote it. I answer that I am a junkie, and a junkie will always find a way. I will sell my soul for a few hours with my word processor. 

For many years I wanted to be an actress, but like so many before me, I gave up and wrote the LSAT. Now, I find myself contemplating the other clich̩ Рof quitting a lucrative legal practice to pursue my dream of being a writer. It may be that I was only able to write my book because I was not supposed to be doing it. I have children to raise, a house to keep and work to do, yet I have begged, borrowed and stolen every moment I could in order to create this piece of art. If my book is successful and I am able to devote myself full time to writing, maybe I will not be so driven, but find myself procrastinating from writing by cleaning the house and spending time with my kids. I hope I get the chance to find out.

The book with which I chose to start my writing career is Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice. One of the great things about Jane Austen’s storytelling is the way she ties everything up into a deeply satisfying ending. We all want the books to go on and on, but extending the characters and the plot after the final chapter felt to me like interfering with that perfect ending. And it would all have to be speculative. Nobody knows what happens after the close of a book, but Jane Austen herself tells us what happened before Pride and Prejudice. So, I thought if I could extend the story backwards in time, I would be able to explore more of her world, spend more time with her characters and create the experience I longed for as a reader, but without offending anyone’s ideas about what might have happened. Everyone ends up exactly as they are at the start of P&P.  Also, I love the history of things. I love the depth that a prequel can give to an original story, not that P&P needs anything from me, but just to expand on the back-story, to delve into the history, felt really exciting. 

My dream is to write many more books after this one, in various styles and genres. My greatest ambition is that my work be adapted into a three-part mini-series for British television, though I would settle for a blockbuster film starring Emma Thompson or Emily Watson, or even Emma Watson.

Follies Past: 
a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice

Author: Melanie Kerr 
Kindle Edition
File Size: 1664 KB
Print Length: 281 pages
Publisher: Petticoat Press (January 6, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Link

About the book:

"I must now mention a circumstance which I would wish to forget myself, and which no obligation less than the present should induce me to unfold to any human being..." 

So begins Mr. Darcy to lay before Elizabeth his faithful narrative of Mr. Wickham's villainy toward his sister, Georgiana. The facts he sets out are brief but potent. They contain a story unto themselves, and that story is the subject of this book. 

Taking its facts from Austen’s own words, Follies Past opens almost a year before the opening of Pride and Prejudice itself, at Pemberley, at Christmas. Fourteen-year-old Georgiana has just been taken from school and is preparing to transfer to London in the spring. It follows Georgiana to London, to Ramsgate and into the arms of the charming and infamous Mr. Wickham. 

To read this book is to step back into the charming world of Jane Austen’s England, to pass a few more hours with some of her beloved characters, sympathetically portrayed as they might have been before ever they came to Netherfield, and to discover a host of new characters each with engaging histories of their own. Authentic in its use of language and meticulously researched, it is a truly diverting entertainment.


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